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Cincinnati Bengals 22
Miami Dolphins 7

I found Thursday night’s game slightly more tense than the reports afterwards would suggest, but I suspect that would be because despite the disparity in play, the Bengals were not able to put this game comfortably away and so as a fan I was rather anxious. In large part this was down to the continuing problems with the Bengals’ offence so in telling the tale of this game, I will start there.

The Bengals offence has not yet come together this season. Andy Dalton is playing well and his combination with AJ Green is as strong as ever, which this season is a blessing as there are problems elsewhere. This is perhaps unsurprising given that there are two new receivers, a lineman, and tight end starting for the Bengals under a new offensive coordinator. I would say that Ken Zampese is still finding his way as coordinator, and I would imagine the Bengals’ struggle to run the ball will be worrying him. The Bengals were more commited to the run in this game with Jeremy Hill and Giovani Bernard combining for thirty-one carries, but at roughly 2.9 yards per carry they were not able to be that effective except for the occasional good play. Luckily, AJ Green was back in his week one form going for one hundred and seventy-three yards and a touchdown as Andy Dalton posted another triple digit quarterback rating. In fairness, they Bengals were able to move the ball for large parts of the game, but the thing that is really killing them is their inability to finish in the red zone. The Bengals kicked five field goals in this game as they simply couldn’t punch the ball into the end zone, and this has to improve. Certainly getting their pro-bowl tight end Tyler Eifert back would help in this regard, but the slight miscues caused by so many new players on this side of the ball is really hurting the Bengals near the goal line.

The Dolphins defence certainly stacked up well against the Bengals in the running game, which given they were ranked twentieth in rush defence by DVOA coming into this game was an impressive effort. However, when you drop one of your big free agent acquisitions in Byron Maxwell and still allow AJ Green to get one hundred and seventy-three yards then you know there are problems. It will also be a worry that the line, which looked like being a strength of the defence going into the season was only able to get one sack against a team that had been struggling in protection for chunks of the season.

If the Dolphins defence was a worry, then their offence was surprisingly anaemic under the attention of Adam Gase who was seen as a solution to Ryan Tannehill’s problems. However, for large stretches they had gained less yards than AJ Green on his own, and if it hadn’t been for the desperate throw to Kenny Stills that yielded a seventy-four yard touchdown then things would have been properly embarrassing as this play accounted for a third of the Dolphins offence. The real problem here was that the Dolphins offensive line was missing Mike Pouncey and with tackles playing guard for them they were not match for the Bengals’ defensive line. It is really not often that you see a guard just blocked backwards into his quarterback for a sack as happened to Jermon Bushrod, but this is what happens when you play a career tackle at guard against one of the best interior pass rushers in Geno Atkins. I don’t want to put too much criticism on Adam Gase as the Dolphins don’t seem to like picking guards in the draft, but unless they can sort their offensive line problems then they are likely to keep having problems.

The Bengals defence had one bad play in this game, resulting in a long touchdown, and then were pretty dominant for the rest of the game. This started with the defensive line, which brought relentless pressure and largely bottled up the Dolphin’s running game whilst racking up five sacks against the pass. The Dolphins were never able to sustain drives, and apart from the sacks, the Bengals defence managed to force a fumble out of Tannehill and picked him off once. The return of Vontaze Burfict allowed them to rotate their linebackers more, and Burfict was talking after the game about being frustrated at not getting an interception but getting his game legs back under him. The defence has been strong for the Bengals all season, and has kept them in all the games they have played so far this season, if things did slip in the fourth quarter against the Bronocs.

The Bengals will be relieved to get out of a tricky start to the season 2-2 given that they’re still trying to get all the new offensive players on the same page, but they will need to as they push on into October. The defence should keep them in games, but things will need to develop if they are to push on for the playoff win that that they are so desperate for.

The Dolphins problems continue and they are struggling as much against the construction of their roster as they are the opposition. There is talent on this team, but it is very unevenly distributed across the roster, and until they address this I fear it will be hard for any coach, no matter how good they are, to turn this franchise into one that wins regularly.

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